Fans cheer Special Olympics athletes

LIHU‘E — Enthusiastic fans greeted Kaua‘i Special Olympics athletes at the Kaua‘i Special Olympics track and field games on Saturday at Vidinha Stadium.

The elation at participating in the annual event was evident from the onset as Special Olympics athlete Lisa Laureta raised her arms as she accepted the Troy Barboza Memorial Run torch from a Kaua‘i Police Department officer,  spokeswoman Shelly Gerardo states in a news release. With the help of Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry, Laureta raised the torch high for all to see.

“This is what the boys play for,” said Keli‘i Morgado, head football coach for Kapa‘a High School and a longtime supporter of Special Olympics. “The players need to know how important fans are to sports because they know how elated they feel when the stands are filled with fans cheering them on.”

The Kapa‘a football team was joined by the Waimea High School football team and its head coach Keali‘i Aguiar. Several of the team’s players had been involved in a five-set volleyball game the night before when Waimea clinched the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation boys volleyball title over Kaua‘i High School.

Kaua‘i Police Department Sgt. Rod Green, heading up the Troy Barboza Memorial Torch Run contingent, outlined Barboza’s commitment to the Special Olympics program and youth sports where he served as a coach.

“He was a very nice guy,” Perry said of Barboza. “I was his sergeant while he was on tour with the Honolulu Police Department.”

The young HPD officer was shot and killed by a drug suspect in his own living room on Oct. 22, 1987, after the suspect was released from jail following an arrest by Barboza, an undercover officer.

Since then, the First Hawaiian Bank Troy Barboza Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Hawai‘i is the only program in the world to be named after a fallen officer. The pre-Special Olympics run helps to raise funds for and awareness about the Special Olympics program.

Kaua‘i Special Olympics serves 103 athletes, and its core volunteers support events that include the track and field meet, a bowling tournament and “Cops on Top” fundraiser to support training opportunities for the athletes.

In Hawai‘i, Special Olympics serves more than 2,779 adults and children, offering training and competition in basketball, bowling, power lifting, soccer, softball, speed skating, swimming and track and field, states a proclamation presented by Ian Costa representing Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

An in-house employee group from the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa formed the major corps of event officials and timers, getting help from players from both the Kapa‘a and Waimea football teams in the absence of Kaua‘i High School track coach Richard Matsumoto and his Red Raider track and field participants.

Matsumoto was on O‘ahu with nine of his student-athletes participating in the Honolulu Marathon Invitational at the Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama campus.

The mission of Special Olympics Hawai‘i is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympics-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The goal is to allow participants continued opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and personal fulfillment.

To enroll an athlete, or to volunteer, call 652-8662.

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